by Jim Nintzel
A devastating portrait of the Wallow fire, via NASA:
An oasis of green in the desert southwest, the Apache National Forest covers the mountains due east of Phoenix and spills across the border with New Mexico. In late May and early June 2011, the island of forest became fuel for one of the largest fires in Arizona history, the Wallow Fire. This image, taken by the Landsat-7 satellite on June 7, shows the northern edge of the fire.
The image was made with infrared light. Bright red spots are actively burning areas, and darker red areas are freshly burned ground. Unburned forest and grassland is green, while sparsely planted earth or bare ground is pale pink. In many places, the fire has burned right to the edge of the forest. The image shows that the fire is intense: It has thoroughly burned the forest leaving few ribbons or patches of green in its wake.
As of June 8, the Wallow Fire had burned 389,000 acres (608 square miles) and was completely uncontained. Several communities have been evacuated, and the Apache National Forest is closed to the public. The Wallow Fire started on May 29, 2011.
The Wallow Fire remains completely uncontained as 9 a.m. this morning and Eager and Springerville have been ordered to be evacuated. A press briefing:
· Full evacuation of Eagar and Springerville. The evacuations were ordered by the Apache County Sheriff's Office about 4:00 p.m. on June 8.
· Sunrise, Greer, Blue River, Alpine, Nutrioso, and the following subdivisions along highways 180/191: Escudilla Mountain Estates, Bonita, White Mtn. Acres, and the H-V Ranch. This area includes County Road (CR) 4000, CR 4001, and CR 4225.
· The evacuation center is located at Blue Ridge High School, 1200 W. White Mtn. Blvd., Pinetop-Lakeside.
A pre-evacuation alert has been issued by Apache County for Greens Peak, Hidden Meadow and the surrounding areas.
· A pre-evacuation alert has been issued by Catron County Sheriff's Office for Luna, New Mexico.
Residents in the communities affected by this fire are asked to remain prepared in the event an evacuation order is needed.
Residents with livestock or animals that need care should contact the Apache County Sheriff's Office (928) 337-4321 or the Greenlee County Sheriff's Office (928) 865-4149.
· The Arizona Department of Transportation reminds motorists traveling that the following closures on state highways remain in effect:
· Nearly 20 miles of U.S. 60 has been closed from Springerville to the New Mexico state line due
· to the Wallow Fire in eastern Arizona. This closure stretches from milepost 384 to 401.
· State Route 260 is closed in both directions east of the Hawley Lake turnoff (State Route 473 junction) and Eagar. SR 260 is closed between mileposts 372-398 near Eagar.
· State Route 373, a 4.5 mile-long highway that connects the town of Greer in eastern Arizona with SR 260 west of Eagar, is closed.
· U.S. 191 is closed between Alpine and north of Clifton (mileposts 176-253).
· State routes 261 and 273, the main access roads to Big Lake and Crescent Lake in the White Mountains, are closed. SR 261 is closed starting approximately seven miles south of SR 260 to Crescent Lake (mileposts 395-413) and SR 273 is closed between the SR 260 junction and to the SR 261 junction (mileposts 378-394).
· U.S. 180 is closed between the SR 260 junction near Eagar and the New Mexico state line (mileposts 403-433).
· For current road conditions , please visit http://www.azdot.gov/
Last night, fire crews concentrated their efforts prepping roads and dozer lines for burnout operations south of Route 851 and Circle Flat area that leads into New Mexico. Fire activity increased on the west side of the fire towards the communities of Greer and Eagar due to high wind and low humidity.
Crews are currently stationed at Big Lake to reduce travel times, ensuring firefighter safety. Structural protection is in place in Greer, South Fork, Eagar, Alpine, Nutrioso, and Escudillo Flats. Firefighters will be conducting burnout operations on the northern and eastern portions of the fire to p limit the fire's spread. Firefighters continue to hold line, mop-up, and patrol other areas of the fire. Creeping, smoldering, and active backing fire with short upslope runs was observed yesterday on the southern portion of fire. Firefighters are constructing indirect line and conducting burnout operations. Today southwest winds of 8-15mph with gusts to 25 mph are expected.
Due to extreme fire conditions, the Apache National Forest is closed to all public entry. See website for closure order details. Please see the Forest website for more information: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf/.
Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Fire Restrictions: A Temporary Emergency Closure Order
was issued effective June 3 at 12:00 p.m. (noon). For more information, please call the Arizona fire restrictions hotline 1-877-864-6985 or visit http://www.publiclands.org/firenews/AZ.php.
For Wallow Fire Information, please visit http://www.inciweb.org/, www.twitter.com/AS NF, and www.flickr.com/apachesitgreavesnf or call (928) 333-3412, (702) 308-3238, (702) 308-3357, or (702) 308-8227. Please let us know if you would like to receive updates via e-mail. Public information officers are also posting information in local communities and the evacuation center located at Blue Ridge High School in Pinetop-Lakeside.